Carlos Vela’s milestone goal not enough for LAFC in loss to Austin FC – Daily News

LOS ANGELES — For the first time this season, the Los Angeles Football Club failed to earn points at home, dropping a 2-1 result to Austin FC on Wednesday night at Banc of California Stadium.

The result left the teams with identical 7-3-2 records (23 points), tied atop the standings after 12 weeks.

Despite playing like the superior team off the opening whistle, LAFC’s eighth loss in 69 home matches since its debut season in 2018 began when it failed to clear a corner kick in the 13th minute.

A giveaway by Diego Palacios, LAFC’s most consistent performer on the defensive line so far this season, allowed Austin midfielder Jhojan Valencia space to dish the ball to defender Ruben Gabrielsen.

Inside the box, the Norwegian’s curling shot flew past LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau for his second goal of the year.

Austin’s go-ahead goal was the eighth time in league play this year that LAFC would need to come from behind to earn points.

“We don’t panic if we’re down in the score at some point in the game because we believe in each other,” Crepeau said. “We know what we can do on the ball. We know the quality of our team.”

Yet after its 2-0 defeat in Colorado last weekend, LAFC was unable to earn points for the second consecutive match.

“Hopefully we learn from this and turn it around,” said LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo, who explained that while his high-pressing team is prone to counter-attacks if it shows more patience early, especially with how it approaches the opponent’s final third, the sum of the match over 90 minutes should be in their favor.

“That needs to be better planned and executed in order to really make teams work harder against us defensively in first halves, which will then open up towards the end of the game with very clear chances,” he said. “And we’re not doing a good enough job, especially with our possession and maybe tiring teams out a bit and creating bigger windows to play into.”

LAFC won each of its three matches against Austin in the visitor’s expansion season last year. LAFC pushed the pace of play on their opponent’s side of the field on Wednesday, but the approach of firing lofted crosses into the box did not pay off.

“We don’t have a huge No. 9 who can dunk the ball and finish these crosses, so it makes no sense for us to be crossing these balls at that frequency early on in games,” said Cherundolo, who coached against his former U.S. men’s national teammate Josh Wolff for the first time. “We need to be more patient, wait for windows, and then get into the box on the ground.”

Playing for the first time since suffering a laceration on his right knee at the end of April, Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver made three of his six saves in the match during the 17th minute. He stopped Danny Musovski, who made his first regular-season start, before denying Latif Blessing and Carlos Vela in quick succession.

Blessing, the lively 25-year-old Ghanian midfielder, surpassed Diego Rossi to become LAFC’s MLS regular-season minutes leader, ending his night with 8,900 minutes after being forced off the field due to an injured right leg prior to halftime.

While the hosts pushed for an equalizer, it was Austin that found insurance in the 80th minute.

A ball over the top of the LAFC back line connected with midfielder Diego Fagundez. The MLS assist leader kept the ball and led a three-on-two attack toward the LAFC net. Rather than attempting to find a teammate, the veteran Uruguayan took what LAFC gave him and calmly buried the ball in the back of the net to give Austin a 2-0 advantage.

“It’s a team with fight and spirit,” Cherundolo said. “When you compare it to last season it’s apples and oranges. They’ve done a good job in the offseason and they’ve done a good job this season doing what it takes to win games, and that’s what they did today.”

Austin’s two shots on goal proved to be enough to end its two-match losing streak, though LAFC cut its deficit in half when Vela converted a penalty kick in the 86th minute.

The goal made the 33-year-old LAFC captain the third-fastest player in MLS history to combine for 100 goals (62) and assists (38) in 98 league matches – ending a nine-match scoreless streak in all competitions in the process.

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